If the Los Angeles Lakers' 2013 NBA playoff hopes weren't already on the rocks, the most recent news on Steve Nash should help cast doubt on avoiding a first-round sweep at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs.
An MRI on Tuesday (h/t Fox News) revealed that preexisting issues have contributed to Nash's already weak hip and back this season, forcing his hamstrings to suffer as a consequence.
.@stevenash will not play in tomorrow's season finale vs. HOU. An MRI confirmed issues nerve irritation contributing to his hamstring pain.— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 16, 2013
While the Lakers remain "hopeful" (h/t Sportsnet Mike Trudell) that Nash will be back for postseason action (should the Lakers win or the Utah Jazz lose on Wednesday night), this is the latest example of how the 2012-13 season in Los Angeles might have been a lost cause from the start.
Look no further than this tweet from ESPN LA's Arash Markazi to confirm that Nash's absence from Wednesday night's lineup will be anything but precautionary:
The fact that Steve Nash has been ruled out for tomorrow's must win game vs. Houston already should tell you something.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) April 16, 2013
Even if the Lakers do grab the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference on Wednesday night, their stay in the postseason won't last very long—especially if Nash's body is at the point that the MRI confirmed on Tuesday.
It's been an injury-filled season for the preseason NBA champion Lakers.
What started with Nash turned into injuries for Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Steve Blake, Metta World Peace and Kobe Bryant—the last of which ended their superstar's season and placed the Lakers' already difficult NBA Finals chances at the lowest they've been since the season began.
Averaging 12.7 points and 6.7 assists in 50 games for the Lakers this season, Nash's presence in the lineup would help compensate for some of the playmaking that Bryant's injury will no-doubt take from Los Angeles.
While Nash has been relegated to spot-up shooter duties and the occasional big night in the wake of Bryant's turn-back-the-clock season, he's still a two-time MVP with a head coach (Mike D'Antoni) that knows how to get the best out of his game.
That strategy would include the un-caging, so-to speak, of Howard.
Nash and Howard could wreak havoc against the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs, similarly to what D12 and former backcourt mate Jameer Nelson did when the Orlando Magic were title contenders back in 2009.
Those days are over, but a healthy Nash lobbing passes to Howard is a combination that would be tough for any team to stop, especially with focused shooters like Blake, Jodie Meeks, Earl Clark and World Peace on the outside.
It's also a strategy that won't work if Nash isn't healthy.
The Lakers have managed to carry their four-game winning streak into this game without Bryant and Nash (somehow). It included beating the San Antonio Spurs and might include a victory over Houston—one that would propel the Lakers into the playoffs for the eighth-straight season.
How far will the Lakers go if Nash doesn't contribute in the postseason?
Even with Nash ready for postseason play, it would be unfair (and downright mean) to expect him to perform at a Mamba-like level for this team after missing eight-straight games.
While unfair, it might be the only chance the Lakers have left.
Either way, things don't look good for LA to survive the postseason gauntlet and emerge as the kings of the NBA world. While injuries and a slow start helped victimize what was clearly a more-talented team than the final regular-season win-loss column would indicate, it doesn't change the fact that expectations remain high for postseason play.
Without Nash in the lineup yet again on Wednesday, they have a chance to go wrong one more time on Wednesday night against the Jazz.
After that, playoff success will hinge on Nash's ability to follow in Bryant's age-defying footsteps and give the Lakers a new Big Three (Howard, Gasol, Nash) to turn the tables on the rest of the West.